Erik Stevenson couldn’t wait until he got home.
He visited Wichita State University — his first-ever trip to Kansas — last week. During his visit, the Timberline High School junior was captivated by the family atmosphere and winning culture at Wichita State.
Stevenson, a three-star prospect from Lacey, was sold when he walked into the locker room and saw “Final Four” written on the floor.
“The Final Four — that’s every athlete’s biggest dream, playing on that stage,” Stevenson said. “Right there, I was like, ‘I like this place.’”
But Stevenson, who has had an offer from Wichita State since August, didn’t verbally commit on the spot because from Kansas he headed straight to Utah for a basketball camp.
He figured he’d call Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall to make it official when he got home. But Stevenson, who had offers from several Division I programs, said he couldn’t wait that long.
“I didn’t want to wait until I got home,” he said.
So, during a layover Monday evening at the Los Angeles International Airport, he called Marshall.
“I said, ‘I wanted to call and let you know that I’m going to be a Shocker,’” Stevenson said.
Stevenson announced his commitment Tuesday afternoon via Twitter.
Stevenson said Wichita State had an edge over other the other programs that offered him — including three Pac-12 schools and LSU — was Marshall’s commitment to recruiting him.
“It’s a great chance for me,” Stevenson said. “Coach Marshall is my type of guy. We both have the mindset to prove people wrong.”
Carl Howell, Stevenson’s AAU coach, said the intangibles that Stevenson brings fit Marshall’s personality and style of play.
“I don’t think any of us are surprised it was Wichita State,” Howell said.
Howell said Wichita State has indicated that Stevenson will likely play early on in his college career. Stevenson, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, said he has been compared to former Shockers guard Ron Baker, who now plays for the New York Knicks.
“They said I was going to be just like him, and he’s in the NBA, and that’s my goal,” Stevenson said.
Wichita State has advanced the NCAA tournament the past six seasons. ESPN ranked the Shockers sixth in its preseason top 25 rankings in April.
“I think he made the best possible choice as far as a school goes,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas said. “Their approach to basketball is very similar to how he wants to play — gritty.”
Stevenson, a two-time Olympian All-Area selection and all-state honorable mention selection, has built a reputation as an aggressive, tough player. Thomas said his drive to compete at both ends of the floor, and his ability to see plays ahead of schedule and find an open player, will work in his favor.
“He’s willing to do the work,” Thomas said.
Stevenson led the Blazers to a 3A state tournament appearance in March, and averaged 19.5 points per game as a junior. He broke Timberline’s single-game scoring record in December, putting up 45 points against crosstown rival North Thurston, and was a first-team 3A South Sound Conference selection.
Thomas said Stevenson has the potential his senior season to not only be the best player to ever come out of Timberline, but could be one of the best in the state in the 2018 class.
“I think that’s a reality for him,” Thomas said. “I would take him over anybody else.”